Woodstock PrideFest returns this weekend with expanded parade route

Events kick off with ribbon cutting for new rainbow-colored stairway downtown Friday

Woodstock is set to again host PrideFest, with events kicking off Friday evening and culminating with an expanded parade route through the city Sunday.

The weekend marks the return of festivities to celebrate a diversity of sexual orientations and genders after last year’s events were canceled due to COVID-19, like many other public gatherings across the nation.

Starting 5 p.m. Friday, Woodstock Mayor Mike Turner will be present for a ribbon cutting showcasing a new permanent art installation in the city in the form of a stairway just off the Historic Square at the southeast corner of East Van Buren and South Benton streets where each step was painted a color of the rainbow to resemble the Pride flag.

“The staircase was decorated in Pride colors with chalk for the 2019 PrideFest,” Crystal Squires, president of event organizer Woodstock Pride, said in a news release. “When we approached the city of Woodstock about a permanent option, they were very gracious and took the request to the entire council for a vote, and we appreciate Woodstock once again being a truly inclusive community and recognizing that this ‘Love is Love’ installation is an important part of the city and surrounding community.”

People who view the staircase and take photos are encouraged to share them on social media platforms with the hashtag #woodstockilpride.

Following the highlight of the new public art piece, drag variety shows will be put on at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday at the Mixin Mingle space on the Square.

On Saturday, a virtual celebration will take place from noon to 2 p.m., and there will also be a Promenade, with homes and businesses throughout Woodstock decorated, designed and glittered in honor of June being Pride month.

Danielle Aylward, the McHenry Township clerk who became McHenry County’s first openly transgender elected official when she came out earlier this year, will be the grand marshal of Sunday’s parade through the city.

The parade will step off at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Dean Street Elementary School at the intersection of Dean Street and Forest Avenue, proceed north on Dean Street into the Square, and then will go around the Square on East Van Buren, South Benton, Cass and South Johnson streets and will exit the Square on South Johnson.

Floats, bikers and walkers are all welcome to participate in the parade.

“We are very excited to be able to put together PrideFest weekend this year,” Squires said. “Everyone understood the need to cancel plans last year because of the pandemic, of course, but we are appreciative of the support we’ve received from the city of Woodstock around this year’s events and are looking forward to being together safely once again and celebrating diversity and integration. We are grateful for our team members and volunteers and will be thrilled to see all of our old friends and to make new friends during PrideFest.”

Vendors and food sales along with entertainment and family-friendly activities will be put on throughout the city during the weekend, according to the release.

Because the events are open to young children, many of whom have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, attendees are being asked to wear masks and socially distance when possible to prevent spread of the virus.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.